Whether you’re dating the significant other you’ve had for the last five years or you’re raking in the Bumble matches, one thing’s for certain: Finding time to date when you’re already busy is a challenge. We can only go to so many restaurants and bars without running up a major bill, and who has the time to go do an activity every weekend when you’d rather be binge-watching Real Housewives? No one. After Googling “free date ideas” one too many times, I had an epiphany: Why not just do things I already do—but with the other along for the ride?
While “doing life together” feels reserved for married couples and those who already live together, it can just as easily be a first date too. Instead of figuring out yet another dinner date, try one of these:
1. Go grocery shopping
You know all those little tasks you have to get done that feel boring, but once you do it with someone, it becomes fun? Grocery shopping is one of those. When we went grocery shopping with our parents or with our college roommate, it suddenly became a scavenger hunt, going through the aisles to find your favorite things rather than standing in the produce section staring at a bagged salad in agony. Invite your S.O. on your weekly grocery trip and see how much fun you can have together. The commute itself is a great time to talk, and you get to engage in a brand new way when you’re in a busy grocery store (Just like they say how someone treats the server can be a red or green flag, the same is true for how you navigate a crowded grocery store).
2. Have them over for morning coffee
If you’re already going to sit back and drink your coffee in the morning, why do it alone? We’re so used to having people over for dinner, but it can be so fun to have someone over just before the day starts to energize and motivate each other. If you’re already going to do it, you might as well have someone tag along.
3. Go to a library
While doing errands together can turn a boring task into something fun, you can also bring your partner along on the things you’re excited to do on your own. If you’re both bookworms and need to go pick up books you ordered from the library or want to go peruse your local bookstore? Have your date tag along to chat about favorite books and recent reads. You’ll probably give each other a brand new recommendation!
4. Commute together
If you and your partner both go into the office or you’re both going to be heading near the same place (say, you live in a city and are both heading downtown), do it together! This is precious time you could spend talking, getting to know each other better, and prepping for the day. This is also a great way to add in a weekly date if you both have a busy routine. Toss aside the podcast for one day a week—we promise it’ll be worth it.
5. Cook a meal
While cooking dinner together is certainly not a new date idea, it’s often overlooked. Sometimes, the simple act of cooking a home-cooked meal with your partner is the best date night there is. Whether it’s a meal you cook all the time or you’re trying something new, top it off with some good conversation, a glass of wine or a mocktail, and maybe even an episode of your favorite show.
6. Do a task together
Whenever I watch Real Housewives, I’m in awe of how often friends get together to just do simple tasks: clean out a closet, pack for a trip, plan a party—they find moments in their busy schedules by just inviting people over to essentially do their to-do lists together. And I happen to find that to be the best date idea. Have something on your to-do list you’ve just been putting off time and time again (I know we all do)? Grab your partner and use them as motivation to finally get it done.
7. Read a chapter of a book together
If you and your partner did #3 and found out you enjoy chatting about books together, try reading one together. You could both sit in the same room and read the first chapter of a book you want to try to yourselves or out loud, and then once it’s over, discuss it. Are you still intrigued? What do you think of the first line? How are the characters so far? It’s basically a hyper-intense book club for just the two of you—and if you love books, you’ll want to keep reading.
8. Clean the house together
While this might be weird with a brand new partner, this is a great activity if you and your partner live together or spend a lot of time in each others’ homes. I’m not suggesting you get on your hands and knees and clean the toilet together, but the ever-present need to “tidy up” or organize can always be completed with someone else. If Ross and Rachel can practically start a relationship after doing laundry together, you and your partner can do a few dishes.